Everything You Need To Know About The Correfoc
The Correfoc is a popular Catalan tradition consisting of a parade of infernal characters that chase people with fireworks. It is usually celebrated after dark (when the effect of the fireworks is more striking), and arises a lot of emotions in the participants that range from (controlled) danger to fun and fascination.
Most major festivals of Catalan villages include one in their program, and the Fire Run of La Merce Festival is the largest in the country. We strongly encourage you to check it out, but there are a few things you need to know beforehand, to understand what’s going on and how to participate safely. That’s what you’ll learn in today’s post.
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5 things you need to know about the Barcelona Firerun:
Diables (the devils)
People belonging to Diables teams dress up as devils for the parade. Each group of Diables has its own traditional costume and it’s usually made of sackcloth or thick cotton, as both are fireproof (it doesn’t mean they don’t burn, but they are more resistant).
They usually wear a cape to protect themselves and a pitchfork full of firecrackers. You’ll recognize them as they are in the middle of the street running with the firecrackers lit sending sparks to everybody that is in their way. A set of sparks lasts lit for a few seconds, then they go back to a chart to get more and start again.
Bestiari (the monsters)
Each Diables team “breeds” some kind of big monster, a scary cardboard mithological animal, that is carried by people hidden inside its structure. They also carry firecrackers sending sparks, as well and despiste being slower than a Diable, the monsters usually carry more fire than Diables.
The Barcelona Parade includes many of them, and you’ll quickly recognize the Gaudiamus, from the group of Malèfica del Coll, that is inspired in the dragon fountain of Park Güell. In our blog you can learn more about these traditional beasts.
Tabalers (the drummers)
The Diables and the Bestiari are accompanied by a group of drummers. When the fire starts, the drummers start playing as well, because they have a safety function: their sound keeps the devils aware of the position of the chart where the unused fireworks are kept, so they can stay away from it (a spark entering the fireworks chart could be fatal). Therefore, the area around the drummers becomes a safety zone for people who wants to follow the fire run but don’t want to approach the sparks.
The itinerary of the Correfoc Barcelona starts in the front of the Cathedral, with the spectacular “Porta de l’Infern” show (Hell’s Gate), where the devils are called by the Beast calls the Devils out of Hell so the parade can start.
Dozens of Diables teams are invited to join the Correfoc every year, and they parade down Via Laietana to the Port, where they are “sent back to hell”. There is also a Children Firerun taking place earlier: it’s not as spectacular as the adults’ one, but it’s so cute seeing kids wearing devil costumes with little pitchforks and firecrackers for kids.
This deeply rooted tradition starts back in the XIV century (it was first documented in 1150, but it wasn’t that popular yet), as a performance represented to entertain the nobility in the middle ages.
The devils and the angels were represented as well during the Corpus Christi festivities (ecclesiastic processions) to make the procession more spectacular, and with the firecrackers noise they’d get people step back and make room for the procession. The tradition has evolved throughout the centuries to become this wonderful fire parade.
AND BONUS! Make sure to dress safely to avoid serious burns:
Dress Code for safety
If you want to participate in the fire run, or at least being near enough to touch the fire, here are some safety tips:
- Wear long jeans and cotton long-sleeved shirts. Synthetic clothes burn quickly and are dangerous.
- Don’t use sandals: sneakers or shoes are better. And please, wear long socks to prevent sparks reaching your ankles.
- If you want to dance under the fire, wear a cotton hat that protects your hair, and a cotton scarf around your neck: the less skin is unprotected, the better.
- A neck buff can be useful to protect your face and cover your nose and mouth avoid breathing the gunpowder smoke.
Would you join a Correfoc Fire Run?
Marta is the founder of ForeverBarcelona. She is a passionate tour guide that loves Barcelona and loves writing too. She is the main author of our Blog, and is committed to sharing her knowledge about Barcelona and her best tips with our readers.
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The Catalan festival of fire: Correfoc
Home / About Barcelona / The Catalan festival of fire: Correfoc
in About Barcelona
May 17, 2021
The Catalan festival of fire: Correfoc has a good chance of becoming the highlight of your trip. Once you have witnessed it once you will never forget it. Keep on reading and find out why.
A Little explanation of Correfoc
If you translate Correfoc literally it means “fire-run”. The fire festival is said to be the most striking Catalan festival in the year. The tradition (in its current form) originated in 1078 at one of Cataluña’s annual festivals, La Merce. However, there is an even older dance tradition. Allegedly Correfoc evolved from Ball de diables (“the devils’ dance”). This medieval practice is a representation of the struggle between the good and evil. This performance was usually presented in between the entrees of the nobility in the Middle Ages.
What to expect at the festival
Correfoc is an open-air performance, during which people dress up as devils and other monstrous creatures. They light up fireworks and dance to the sound of rhythmic drums. The performers create all kinds of patterns in the air using the burning sticks that they carry. The artists are usually surrounded by spectators, who providently wear clothing that could protect them from small burns. People that are watching react in different ways. Some want to come as close as possible and some want to enjoy from afar. However, the best way to experience Correfoc is to run along with the fire together with the demons.
Correfocs festivals are celebrated in different cities and they are never the same, because of customs and traditions. In Sitges it is common for a crowd to line the side of the street, while participants run trough a tunnel of fireworks. In other cities groups bring various sculptures that spit fire. The sculptures that they bring can be in all forms and shapes. For instance, in the past we’ve seen a large recreation of Gaudi’s dragon from Park Güell, with fireworks in its mouth and all down its back and tail. Another version takes places in L’Arboc with the famous Carretillada. During the evening, the town square is decorated to look like Hell. Before dinner “devils” burn their carretilles (carts) and jump around. It doesn’t matter to which city you go to watch and celebrate the correfocs, the show will always be incredible.
Details of Correfoc
Because Correfocs is strongly connected to the Catalan identity, there’s actually a high chance of coming across a Correfoc on any celebration in Catalonia. Some other events that are always accompanied by a fire show are La Mercè in Barcelona (usually takes place in September), Festa Major de Gràcia in Barcelona (in August), Festival of Santa Tecla in Tarragona (no exact date) and the Festival of Saint Narcissus in Girona (the end of October).
During Correfocs you can see fire demons of all ages. There are even little children running around like monstrous creatures. That’s because the tradition of participating in this festival is usually passed on from one generation to another. The performers often constitute a ‘professional’ group of friends and families. It is not that surprising for families to be involved in Correfoc and it’s not as dangerous as it might seem, since they know how to adequately protect themselves.
The tradition actually has been banned under the dictatorship of General Franco. He did not only ban the Correfocs but also other regional traditions that weren’t strictly “Spanish”. But lucky for us, now it’s back. And not only that but the Catalans are also free to speak their own language and celebrate their colourful cultural heritage.
We recommend you to wear cotton clothes with long sleeves if you to visit one of the Correfocs. It also is a good idea to wear something to shield your eyes and cover your neck and of course appropriate footwear. If you are planning to be close to the fireworks please think of your ears and bring some earplugs. The organisation also helps by setting out buckets on the streets just in case people accidentally catch on fire. Just please be careful when you are near the fire, because fire is still fire. Have a good night sleep before the day of the festival because it can go on for hours. Finally, make sure you enjoy yourself!
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Correfoc in Blanes, 2022 | Life in Spain
Do you like unusual Catalan traditions? – Then be sure to visit Correfoc in Blanes (Gran Correfoc de Blanes).
Correfoc (translated as “running fire” or literally this word means “fiery walk”) is a unique medieval tradition and the most striking, spectacular and amazing of the customs of Catalonia, which dates back to the 12th century and symbolizes the struggle between Good and Evil, the victory over paganism.
At dusk, a parade begins, during which people dressed as devils spin burning firecrackers over their heads to the beat of drums, and the rest try to run under flying sparks as close as possible to expel evil. Be prepared for incredible noise, flame eruptions, turmoil and chaos as sparks from firecrackers fly straight at the audience.
Usually, after the parade through the streets of the city, all participants move to the square in front of the church in Blanes, where the obligatory attribute of the holiday is no less terrible papier-mâché dragon figures with sparklers, which are set on fire by fakirs. By the way, it is on this square that the fakirs begin to pose and you can make a good shot!!!
Annually Correfoc is held in Blanes and is part of the Major Celebration (Festa Major de Blanes, Santa Anna). It starts immediately after the International Fireworks Competition on the Costa Brava (Concurs Internacional de Focs D’artifici de la Costa Brava). This year this holiday will be held on July 24 at 23:30 and will take place on the following streets: c. Ample, c. Raval, c. Petit Raval, Pl. Sagrada Familia, c. Salut, from c. Ampla to Pl. Solidaritat, Rbla. Joaquim Ruyra, c. Walls, c. Ample, c. Nou, Pl. Esglecia.
Correfoc is a spectacular sight, however, because of the noise and fireworks, it can scare children a little, so I do not recommend taking them with you. I recommend wearing a panama and a thick long-sleeved T-shirt (preferably an old one that you don’t feel sorry for), as well as goggles that will save you from sparks.
And in conclusion, I advise everyone who loves photography and photo art to participate in the photography competition, which is dedicated to the Main Festival in Blanes. Correfoc is one of the photo contest categories, so try it, maybe someone will be lucky to get a good shot !!!
And for those who have never visited this holiday, you can view photo galleries from previous years:
- Photo report: Correfoc in Blanes, 2019 / Gran Correfoc de Blanes, 2019. Part # 1
- Photo report: Correfoc in Blanes, 2019 / Gran Correfoc de Blanes, 2019. Part #2
- Photo report: Correfoc in Blanes, 2018 / Gran Correfoc de Blanes, 2018. Part #1
- Photo report: Correfoc in Blanes, 2018 / Gran Correfoc de Blanes, 2018. Part #2
- Photo report: Correfoc in Blanes, 2016 / Gran Correfoc de Blanes, 2016. Part #1
- Photo report: Correfoc in Blanes, 2016 / Gran Correfoc de Blanes, 2016. Part #2
Posted: 23 /
Those who received a visa from the Spanish Consulate in Moscow in September could see the La Merce festival in Barcelona
Another summer season is over, but this does not mean that it makes no sense to apply to the Spanish Consulate in Moscow until the Christmas holidays. Experienced tourists know that September is a great month for trips to the kingdom, especially to Catalonia and its capital. After all, it is at the end of September that the famous La Merce festival takes place in Barcelona – one of the most famous and colorful Catalan holidays.
Barcelona officially pays tribute to the patroness of the city of Our Lady of Mercy on September 24th. However, the festivities, as a rule, begin a few days before this date and continue even after it. The total number of events that take place every year in Barcelona as part of this festival is several hundred. And of course, even the most eager tourists will not be able to see them all. That is why it is worth, perhaps, focusing on the most important events of the holiday, trying to get the most complete impression and maximum pleasure.
First of all, of course, this is Correfoc, a fire festival whose traditions date back to the 12th century. For this event, the people of Barcelona, dressed in costumes of dragons and demons, gather at Jaime Pervo metro station. The meaning of this holiday is to control fire, and therefore pyrotechnic explosions and all kinds of shows with burning props are an integral part of it. Sculptures also take part in the festival, they are able to spew fire, and the action is accompanied by the music of bagpipes and drums. It’s easy to imagine how impressive and unforgettable it all is, so Correfoc should definitely be included in your acquaintance program with La Merce.
Another interesting event on the list of festive events is the competition of builders “castells”. This word itself in translation means “castles” – but not from stones or bricks, but from human bodies. This occupation requires considerable skill and courage, and in honor of the La Merce holiday in Barcelona, there is a competition for the best tower, in which teams from various districts (barrios) of the city take part. Such teams are real professionals, dressed in specially tailored suits and capable of building a tower of 8 or even 10 “floors”. This competition takes place at Plaza San Jaime and is not to be missed.
Those who come to Barcelona with their families during the La Merce days should definitely admire the parade of giant figures. These are enlarged images of kings, elves and trolls that rush through the streets. The parade is accompanied by the scattering of confetti and, much more liked by children, sweets. To see it, it is best to head to Plaza Catalunya and take a fancy to a place near the end of La Rambla.
What else will be able to see those who prudently applied to the Spanish Consulate in Moscow on the eve of the La Merce holiday in Barcelona?
The fountains of Montjuïc are definitely one of the most beautiful sights in Barcelona. You can admire the play of water and light in the evenings throughout the summer and autumn. However, on the last day of La Merce, there is a real show that is not to be missed. For almost an hour, admiring spectators can watch how pyrotechnics are added to the usual water and light show – and all this against the background of music. One of the most exciting elements of the show is the moment when all those present turn on sparklers, and the entire area is filled with light.
In addition to the main events of the festival described above, during the days of the festival, many events take place on the streets of the city, in which you should definitely take part. The weather here at this time of the year is not at all hot, but still very warm, and therefore the audience can enjoy not only concerts and processions, but also a picnic in the city park. One of the days of the festival is worth spending in Ciutadella Park, where free concerts, food and drink tastings are held, here you can also admire the fountains. Do not forget that during the days of La Merce, visiting most of the capital’s museums and attractions is free.
Experienced travelers recommend that if you are planning to stay in Barcelona for the duration of the festival, it is best to purchase a universal metro and bus pass that allows you to use public transport services without restrictions for 1-5 days. On the days of the holiday, the metropolitan metro works around the clock, and therefore you can walk and have fun all night long without worrying about how to get home later.
The La Merce Festival is a celebration for people of all ages. Therefore, those who have not yet visited Barcelona during these September days should think about planning their trip to the capital of Catalonia for this time next year.